Shah Jahan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shah Jahan
Birth name: Ghiyas-ud-din Muhammad
Family name: Timurid
Title: Emperor of Mughal Empire
Birth: January 5, 1592
Place of birth: Lahore, Punjab (Pakistan)
Death: January 22, 1666
Succeeded by: Aurangzeb
  • Akbarabadi Mahal (d.1677)
  • Kandahari Mahal (b. 1594, m.1609)
  • Mumtaz Mahal (b.1593, m.1612, d.1631)
  • Hasina Begum Sahiba (m.1617)
  • Muti Begum Sahiba
  • Qudsia Begum Sahiba
  • Fatehpuri Mahal Sahiba (d. after 1666)
  • Sarhindi Begum Sahiba (d. after 1650)
  • Shri Manbhavathi Baiji Lall Sahiba (m. 1626)
  • Lilavati Baiji Lall Sahiba (m. before 1627)[1]

Shahbuddin Mohammed Shah Jahan (also spelled Shah Jehan, Shahjehan. Persian: شاه ‌جهان), January 5, 1592January 22, 1666) was the ruler of the Mughal Empire in the Indian Subcontinent from 1628 until 1658. The name Shah Jahan comes from Persian شاه ‌جهان meaning "King of the World". He was the fifth Mughal ruler after Babur, Humayun, Akbar, and Jahangir.

After revolting against his father Jahangir, as the latter had revolted against Akbar, he succeeded to the throne on his father's death in 1627. It was during his reign that the Mughal power attained its greatest prosperity. The chief events of his reign were the destruction of the kingdom of Ahmadnagar (1636), the loss of Kandahar to the Persians (1653), and a second war against the Deccan princes (1655). In 1658 he felt ill, and was confined by his son Aurangzeb in the citadel of Agra until his death in 1666. The period of his reign was the golden age of Indian architecture. Shah Jahan erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, built as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal; while the Pearl Mosque at Agra and the palace and great mosque at Delhi also commemorate him. The celebrated "Peacock Throne," said to have been worth millions of dollars by modern estimates, also dates from his reign. He was the founder of the modern city of Delhi, the native name of which is Shahjahanabad.


[edit] Birth

At birth, Shah Jahan was given the name Khurram - Persian for 'joyful' - by his grandfather Akbar. He was born to Jahangir and a Rajput Princess, known as Jagat Gosini, who was Jahangir's second wife. He was eager to expand his empire like Akbar. Shah Jahan is best known as the builder of the Taj Mahal, a shrine to his Persian second wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal ("Ornament of the Palace") whom he married on May 10, 1612, at the age of 20.

[edit] Accession

In the Mughal empire, inheritance of power and wealth was not determined through primogeniture, but rather by princely sons competing to achieve military success and consolidate power at court. This often lead to rebellions and wars of succession. As a result, a complex political climate surrounded the Mughal court in Khurram's formative years. In 1611 his father married Nur Jehan, the widowed daughter of a Persian immigrant.[3] She rapidly became an important member of Jahangir's court and together with her brother Asaf Khan, they wielded considerable influence. Mumtaz was Asif Khan's daughter and the 1612 marriage to Khurrum consolidated Nur Jahan's and Asif Khan's position at court.

Khurrum's eventual ascent to the throne was a typically bloody one. His military successess of 1617 against the Lodi in the Deccan effectively secured the southern border of the empire and his grateful father bestowed on him the extremely prestigeous title 'Shah Jahan Bahadur' (Lord of the World) which effectively sealed his inheritance. Court intrigues however, including Nur Jahan's decision to marry her daughter from her first marriage to Jahan's youngest brother and her support for his claim to the throne led Khurram, supported by Asaf Khan, into open revolt against his father in 1622.

The rebellion was quelled by Jahangir's forces in 1626 and Khurram was forced to submit unconditionally.[4] Upon the death of Jahangir in 1627, Khurrma succeeded to the Mughal throne as Shah Jahan, King of the World and Lord of the Auspicious Conjunctions, the latter title eluding to Jahan's pride in his Timurid roots.[5] Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. Jahan was utterly devoted; she was his constant companion and trusted confidant and their relationship was intense.[6] Mumtaz is portrayed by Jahan's chroniclers as the perfect wife with no aspirations to political power. This is in direct opposition to how Nur Jahan had been perceived.[6]

[edit] Rule

Although his father's rule was generally peaceful, the empire was experiencing challenges by the end of his reign. Shah Jahan reversed this trend by putting down a Muslim rebellion in Ahmednagar, repulsing the Portuguese in Bengal, capturing the Rajput kingdoms of Baglana and Bundelkhand to the west, and the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda in the Deccan and the northwest beyond the Khyber Pass. Shah Jahan's military campaigns drained the imperial treasury. Under his rule, the state became a huge military machine and the nobles and their contingents multiplied almost fourfold, as did the demands for more revenue from the peasantry. However, his political efforts encouraged the emergence of large centers of commerce and crafts--such as Lahore, Delhi, Agra, and Ahmedabad--linked by roads and waterways to distant places and ports. He moved the capital from Agra to Delhi, the traditional seat of Muslim power. Under Shah Jahan's rule, Mughal artistic and architectural achievements reached their zenith. Shah Jahan was a prolific builder with a highly refined aesthetic. He built the legendary Taj Mahal in Agra as a tomb for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Among his surviving buildings are the Red Fort and Jama Masjid in Delhi, the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, sections of the Lahore Fort and his father's mausoleum.

Although the empire's financial expenditures were excessive when resources were shrinking, by the end of Shah Jahan's reign, the empire was again expanding.

Legend has it that Shah Jahan wanted to build a black Taj Mahal for himself, to match the white one he reportedly loved much more.[1]. There is no reputable scholarship to support this hypothesis, however.[2][3][4].

A recently aired documentary about the Mughal Empire, on the History Channel, filmed archaeologists looking into the Shah's personal slave trade records and the theory of the Black Mahal. This black Mahal was in fact, or so it is believed, the reflection of the Taj Mahal in a large water feature in the gardens opposite. Shah Jahan was, apparently, known for his love of symmetry. The film crew attempted to see this reflection which indeed looked like a Black Taj Mahal. [5] The origin of the story may also be another legend that on his imprisonment he could only see the Taj Mahal reflected in a mirror in his cell. Given the contemporary technology of mirror-making, this reflection would have appeared quite dark. Or the story may simply be a poetic embellishment of the dramatic life of a historical figure.

[edit] Legacy

Shah Jahan's legacy was one of the most profound of all the Mughals. A patron of the fine arts, he continued the Mughal patronage of painting, although his passion was architecture, with the highlight being undoubtedly the Taj Mahal. Painting during his reign reflected the serene prosperity that the Mughals enjoyed with many scenes reflecting Shah Jehan's interest in romance.

[edit] Notable structures associated with Shah Jahan

  • There is a crater named after Shah Jahan on the minor planet 433 Eros. Craters on Eros are named after famous fictional and real-life lovers.

[edit] European accounts of Shah Jahan's personal life

Numerous accounts of Shah Jahan's personal life were recounted by contemporary European writers.

[edit] Shah Jahan's promiscuity

Like all his ancestors, Shah Jahan's court included many wives, concubines, and dancing girls. Several European chroniclers noted this. Niccolao Manucci wrote that "it would seem as if the only thing Shahjahan cared for was the search for women to serve his pleasure" and "for this end he established a fair at his court. No one was allowed to enter except women of all ranks that is to say, great and small, rich and poor, but all handsome (Manucci, I, p.195)." When he was detained in the Agra Fort, Aurangzeb permitted him to retain "the whole of his female establishment, including the singing and dancing women (Bernier, p.166 and p. 21)". Manucci notes that Shah Jahan didn't lose his "weakness for the flesh" even when he had grown very old (Manucci, I, p.240).

Shah Jahan also had an affair with Farzana Begum, the sister of his second wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was said that Farzana Begum's son was the son of Shah Jahan, and Manucci wrote, "as for myself, I have no doubt about it, for he was very like Prince Dara (Manucci, II, p.390)." According to Frey Sebastian Manrique, Shah Jahan violated the chastity of the wife of Shaista Khan with the help of his daughter (Manrique, II, pp. 140-44). Shaista Khan was the brother of Mumtaz Mahal.

[edit] Allegations of incest

Several European chroniclers suggested that Shah Jahan had an incestuous relationship with his daughter Jahanara Begum. The European traveller Francois Bernier wrote, "Begum Sahib, the elder daughter of Shah Jahan was very handsome... Rumour has it that his attachement reached a point which it is difficult to believe, the justification of which he rested on the decision of the Mullas, or doctors of their law. According to them it would have been unjust to deny the king the privilege of gathering fruit from the tree he himself had planted (Bernier, p.11)". Joannes de Laet was the first European to write about this rumour. Peter Mundy and Jean Baptiste Tavernier wrote about the same allegations.

However, the historian K.S. Lal pointed out that Aurangzeb may have been involved in "magnifying a rumour into a full-fledged scandal", and wrote: "Aurangzeb had disobeyed Shahjahan, he had incarcerated him for years, but if he really helped give a twist to Shahjahan's paternal love for Jahan Ara by turning it into a scandal, it was the unkindest cut of all his unfilial acts." (Lal 1988) He remarked that in "these circumstances, it is not possible to say anything with finality".

[edit] Notes

[edit] Literary sources and references

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Asher, Catherine Ella Blanshard [2003]. The New Cambridge History of India, Vol I:4 - Architecture of Mughal India (Hardback), First published 1992, reprinted 2001,2003 (in English), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 368. ISBN 0-521-26728-5. 
  • Padshah Nama, a book written by Abdul Hamid Lahori
  • Shah Jahan Nama by Inayat Khan (a court historian of Shah Jahan)
  • Nushka i Dilkhusha by Bhimsen
  • Bernier, Francois, Travels in the Mogal Empire (1656-68), revised by V.A. Smith, Archibald Constable, Oford 1934.
  • Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Travels in India, trs. and ed. by V.Ball, 2 Vols. Macmillan, 1889, 1925.
  • De Laet, Joannes, The Empire of the Great Mogol, trs. byHoyland and Banerjee, Bombay 1928.
  • Peter Mundy. Travels of Peter Mundy in Asia, ed. R.C. Temple, Hakluyt Society, London 1914.
  • Manucci, Niccolao, Storia do Mogor, Eng. trs. by W. Irvine, 4 vols. Hohn Murray, London 1906.
  • Manrique, Travels of Frey Sebastian Manrique, trs. by Eckford Luard, 2 Vols. Hakluyt Society, London 1927.
  • Lal, K.S. (1988). The Mughal Harem. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-85179-03-4. 
  • Begley, W, The Symbolic Role of Calligraphy on Three Imperial Mosques of Shah Jahan, Kaladarsana, 1978, pp. 7 - 18

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Mughal Emperor
Succeeded by